io9 Newsstand: The Best Stories & Poems from March 29 - April 4

Do you read speculative poetry? Wait, before you answer that, let me ask: do you read poetry? April is National Poetry Month, after all. And if you're not a regular poem reader you'll probably read at least one sometime this month.

I am guilty of the crime of neglecting poetry most of the year. There are few poets I truly love and few poems I can recall well enough to label a "favorite." All that before we even get to poetry written for the science fiction and fantasy-loving audience.


Which brings me back to: how many of you read speculative poetry? Do you even know where to find it? Do you have a favorite poet or poem?

I ask because I'm thinking about dedicating a couple of columns to speculative poetry this month. And I'm open to suggestions, recommendations, and advice on where to find the best stuff. Scroll on down to the comments and talk to me about which Calliope-inspired persons and markets I should check out.

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Endurance Is Not Bravery/Do Not Declare Love by Staring By Elizabeth R. McClellan | Strange Horizons

The tin soldiers stared, always,
all twenty-five leering brothers.
I heard their lecherous murmurs inside the box.
For my sake, no one let them out at night,

Though I don't read poetry often, most of the poems I've read in the past few years are by McClellan, and that's because she's amazing. This one is a spin on an Andersen tale, The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Spoiler: the soldier isn't the hero.


Image Credit: "Still The Brave Tin Soldiers" by Vladimir Pletenev on Flickr

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The Frog Prince by Mallory Ortberg | The Toast

In an old time in an old country there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful and all unlucky. To be beautiful in this country was to be noticed by men; for this reason the girls were unlucky. It is lucky for a woman not to be noticed. In this country, women prayed to secret gods to let them be forgotten. They prayed with their faces to the floor.


It was the king's youngest daughter who was the most unlucky. She was so beautiful that the sun itself noticed and fell in love with her, and never let its rays stray from her face for even a moment. She slept with her face jammed into a pillow and the coverlets over her head, but the sun could not let her sleep unnoticed, and every day it found her, and every day it woke her while everyone else was still asleep. Beauty is never private.

"Beauty belongs to everyone," the king told his daughters. "Beauty is a public good."


McClellan's poem reminded me of this piece. Not usually the kind of short story I feature here, but the resonance was so strong I decided to include it. If you haven't checked out Ortberg's "Children's Stories Made Horrific" you really, really should. These retellings don't subvert or re-imagine the tales, they strip away the subtleties and reveal the disturbing and horrific truth behind the message of these tales. Reading this is quite uncomfortable, but it's also necessary. I would read this to my daughter before the Grimm's version.

Image: Walter Crane

The Fox Bride by Mari Ness | Daily Science Fiction

He carried the squirming animal to his—no, their, he had to remember that now, their—bedroom, struggling to avoid her sharp teeth. The oversized ring he had given her glimmered on her left front leg; she had spent most of the evening biting and licking at it, when she had not been growling. He had ordered the musicians to play louder, to cover up the noise, but the growls still lingered in his ears.


When he reached the room, he secured her chain to one end of the bed, and sat gingerly at the other end. The waxing moonlight flooded the bed, giving a silver sheen to her red and snowy fur.

"When you are a woman, I can remove the chain," he told the fox.

Sometimes princesses are made to sleep in beds with gross frogs, and sometimes princes are made to sleep in beds with bitey foxes. Which one has the worst of it? This poor prince is trapped by duty and story, even as he is not allowed to fully participate in the story spun around his purpose in life. I like that he's a pragmatic boy and that the fox is a quintessential fox.


K. Tempest Bradford is a speculative fiction author and media critic. Follow her on Twitter, G+, Tumblr, or her blog.



For the several months—maybe a year now, I don't know—I've been responding to the io9 Concept Art Writing Prompts in poems (sonnets, mainly). I enjoy reading some speculative poetry, but it's not very readily available because, for some reason, those who like poetry don't cross over much with those who like speculative fiction. You can search the Concept Art prompts or just check my blog, "Sonnets from the Pleiades" to see my stuff. As far as poets I like, I'm a fan of 17th Century poet John Donne—though not really a science fiction or fantasy poet, his use of imagination is key.